Sares returns to the powerlifting circuit

CONWAY — Ted Sares has been in the gym — he's hoping that work will pay off as he prepares to head into a busy fall powerlifting schedule.

The North Conway resident's last event was in April 2016. Sares says he is eager to get back on the platform. He has been training intensely with Angel Williams and figures to hit his peak around the end of August and then will slow it down until his next event which is The Hayward Memorial" in Fairhaven, Vt., on Sept. 10.

Sares also plays golf just about every day to keep his hand-eye coordination sharp and his legs engaged.

Almost 80, Sares broke some national records in Fairhaven last year, but he has nagging wrist injuries resulting from a fall unrelated to training, that may prevent a repeat, especially in the bench press. Still, he is determined to break his own record in the squat.

On Oct. 29, Sares plans to travel to Heavy Metal Gym in Laconia to compete in the "Beasts of the East" Tournamament.

He plans to wind up a busy year by entering the second annual "SPF New England Power Challenge" at the Red Island CrossFit in Smithfield, RI.

As he moves into 2017, Sares said he is looking at the possibility of extending his reach and competing in California, Las Vegas, and maybe down south, but there are lots of contingencies. He also aims to win his fourth consecutive EPF Nationals Championship in Johnson, R.I. in April.

Heading towards 80, the deceptively strong Sares will compete in an exclusive category — he is especially proud even now on being one of the very oldest raw powerlifters in the world.

 

Locke, fellow relievers look to 'edit the dream'

By Stephen J. Nesbitt

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Two uncomfortable truths of life in the bullpen, left-hander Jeff Locke has learned since moving there, are his feet hurt from wearing spikes every day, and it's no longer cool to crush five cheesesteaks like he could have when his turn in the rotation still was a few days away.

Whether he actually scarfed five cheesesteaks isn't the point. Not until his doctor says so, anyway.

The point is the transition from starter to reliever isn't always easy, though it is awfully common. When Mark Melancon, a reliever every day of his professional baseball career, was traded in July, the Pirates were left with a bullpen composed entirely of converted starters. Locke is the latest, joining right-hander Juan Nicasio as the Pirates' long relievers who started the season in the rotation.

And if Locke is being honest, which he was Wednesday, he didn't grow up dreaming of this role.

"You don't get up in the morning and say, 'I want to be the long guy,' you know?" he said, a few hours before throwing a scoreless fifth inning against the San Francisco Giants. "That's like being the long snapper on a football team. No one dreams of it, but if you're good at it you go there."

So far, he's been good. After posting a 5.86 ERA over 19 starts this season, Locke entered the weekend having thrown 7⅓ scoreless innings in relief. He'd scarcely ever pitched out of the bullpen, though he fondly recalled a game May 29, 2008, when then-Atlanta Braves closer John Smoltz threw two innings in a rehab start with Class A Rome, and Locke went the last seven.

Almost every pitching prospect begins his climb to the majors as a starter, getting more innings and more experience. Eventually, some are bound for the bullpen. Sure, right-hander Jared Hughes conceded, the change can be hard, dashing a boyhood dream of pitching a complete game in Game 7 of the World Series. But it often puts a pitcher on a quicker path to the majors.

"You've got to edit the dream a little bit," Hughes said. "But to pitch in the major leagues, I don't care what they want me to do, I'm going to do it with a smile on my face."

A reality check

Hughes bristled at the notion the Pirates' relievers were "failed starters" once upon a time. Tony Watson wasn't a shabby starter in the minors, Hughes said, recalling Watson took his spot in the Class AA Altoona rotation in 2010 and struck out 10 over six innings in the Eastern League final.

A flexor strain in 2009 had forced Watson to the bullpen for the Arizona Fall League. He opened the 2010 season with a 1.84 ERA in 25 relief appearances for Altoona, pitching two to four innings a pop, and then made nine starts late in the season. In 2011, the Pirates bullpen needed help, so Watson and Hughes returned to relief and rocketed to the majors.

"At that point, it's: What's the fastest way to get to the big leagues and stick?" Watson said. "It was to be a left-handed reliever out of the bullpen. This is where everybody wants to be. Everybody wants to pitch in the big leagues. ... I obviously never saw myself as a closer."

Left-hander Antonio Bastardo started five games as a rookie for the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies in 2009 before moving to the bullpen during winter ball. Lefty Felipe Rivero was a starter until the Washington Nationals made the switch at the end of spring training last year.

"It actually turned out very good, I think," said Rivero, who has a 3.38 ERA in 105 appearances.

Locke started alongside right-hander Neftali Feliz for two seasons in the Braves minor league system. Once in the majors, Feliz pitched three strong seasons in relief before Joe Nathan's arrival prompted the Texas Rangers to put Feliz in the rotation in 2012. He had a 3.16 ERA in seven starts, including a complete game, before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He has not started since.

"When I was a child, my biggest dream was just to play in the big leagues," Feliz said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. "It wasn't so much about being a starter or a reliever."

Locked into reality

Locke understands why he was been bumped from the rotation. In a career plagued by inconsistency, the bar set by an All-Star first half in 2013, he was even more uneven this season.

"Hit or miss," Locke said, describing his starts. "Penthouse or outhouse. That's the way the games were. They were either really good, or piss-poor bad. There was no in-between."

The lefty tossed his first career shutout May 30, a three-hitter, and followed with seven innings of three-run ball June 4. In his next two outings, however, Locke was shelled for 18 earned runs.

"At that point, [Jake] Arrieta had only given up 18 on the season," he said. "I gave that up in a week."

Whether his future returns him to the Pirates rotation, or keeps him in Pittsburgh, Locke said he is proud of the fact he made every start for three years. There were no late scratches, no blisters or hangnails or trips to the disabled list. Not many lefties in the majors can say that, Locke said.

The pace of the bullpen has been difficult to adjust to. Rather than have four days to prep, Locke said, "it's ring ring — get Locke ready — and as soon as that happens you see [pitching coach] Ray Searage walk out to the mound to give you a minute. Next batter, you're in."

There is a certain mental drain to constantly standing watch. And when games get close, that's typically when a long reliever knows he won't work that day. Asked if he could grow to like a bullpen job, Locke said he imagines a specified late-inning role would be an adrenaline rush.

Still, he would prefer to start, the way he always has.

"It's tough," Locke said. "It's hard to be used to doing something for so long and taking your time and making sure you stay healthy, don't do anything stupid, but now it's just go time. ...

"I'm frustrated of course that I have to go to the bullpen, but maybe it will be helpful."

So it's like what Hughes said. Sometimes you've got to edit the dream a little bit.

"Edit the dream?" Locke repeated. "Yeah. That's a good way of putting it."

 

Locke's velocity was down, but still beat the A's

By Stephen J. Nesbitt

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

OAKLAND, Calif. — There was one out and two runs already in when pitching coach Ray Searage trudged to the pitcher's mound in the first inning Friday at Oakland Alameda Coliseum. The first few pitches from left-hander Jeff Locke had portended poorly for the Pirates. He had walked the leadoff batter, and handed two home runs — one foul, the other fair — to the next.

"That's not the way we wanted to start the game, that's for sure," said Locke, a 2006 Kennett High graduate. "But you can't quit."

Backed by an offense that came from behind for a 7-3 win against the Oakland Athletics, Locke delivered five innings of three-run baseball when nothing more was needed. He handed the baseball to the bullpen, and three trusty relievers extended the bullpen's scoreless streak to 24 2/3 innings. Locke (8-5) won his third game in a row and tied his 2015 win total.

The Pirates (39-41) were anchored in the series opener by the back half of their lineup. Their first four batters were a combined 1 for 16. The final five were 7 for 18 with two walks and six RBIs.

Jordy Mercer began the comeback march by cracking a fastball from right-hander Sonny Gray off the cement staircase beyond the left-field wall for a solo home run. Mercer later added an RBI single. Josh Harrison and Matt Joyce also had two hits apiece.

"June was hard, top to bottom," manager Clint Hurdle said after his team closed the book on a 9-19 month to welcome July with a win. "We've started showing signs of coming out of it."

Prior to Friday, Locke had a 2.96 ERA at home, and a 7.36 road ERA. The latter number got worse before it got better, as the Athletics scored three times in the first two innings with Locke fighting his fastball. Locke's velocity was down, and he admitted early on he was guiding his pitches, testing the waters rather than attacking. He stayed in the hunt and found a groove. The Athletics managed just four hits in the game, and only one after the second inning.

In five innings, Locke allowed three hits and three runs. He walked three and struck out there.

"By no means was the performance today good enough," Locke said, "... but it was good enough today."

To Hurdle, Locke's ability to shake off the sideways start and end strong showed his maturity.

"He didn't have his 'A' game," Hurdle said. "It might have been his 'B' game."

Locke had won six of eight starts prior to Friday, and the success largely was predicated on his command. He issued only one walk total in the six wins. So it was a bad sign when he walked Jed Lowrie leading off the first, then went to a full count in a long battle with Marcus Semien.

The 11th pitch Semien saw was sent toward the wall in left-center field. Andrew McCutchen gave chase and leaped at the wall, but he was left hanging there as the baseball dropped out of view. The swift two-run deficit plus a second walk brought Searage for an early talk.

"He wanted to come out and break up the pace," Locke said. "And maybe bring some good fortunes."

The Athletics added another run in the second when Lowrie doubled home Yonder Alonso, who had bunted for a single. Locke's pitch count was 35 after one inning, 54 after two and 72 after three, but he sent down the last nine batters in order to stay through five innings.

"You can't quit out there," Locke said. "There have definitely been times in my career when I feel like I've quit. Now that I'm older, more mature, you've got to keep going until the manager comes and takes it from you. The guys behind you aren't going to quit."

As Locke's innings got shorter, Gray's got longer. Harrison said he felt momentum shift.

"We knew we were in a fight early," Hurdle added. "We just kept scratching."

 

Leanne Smith nominated to the U.S. Ski Team's women's A Team

CONWAY  — The U.S. Alpine Ski Team announced its nominations for the 2016-17 season on Tuesday, and North Conway's Leanne Smith was again named to the women's A team.

Nominations include those active athletes who qualified based on published selection criteria in the prior season.

According to the U.S. Ski Team website, "each athlete accepting the nomination to U.S. Alpine Ski Team receives a high level of world-class program support, along with access to the USSA Center of Excellence, as well as athletic benefits including an elite coaching, sport science, sports medicine and high performance staff and education opportunities."

The U.S. Ski Team nominates an A, B, C and D team for the women and men, along with a university team each summer.  An official team announcement will be made in the fall.

Leanne Smith, 29, has been on the U.S. Ski Team for nine years. The three-sport standout at Kennett High School, raced for the hometown Eagles as well as the Mt. Washington Valley Ski Team and the University of New Hampshire before making the team.

"Again plagued with (a knee) injury in 2016, Smith was out much of the season but is spending the summer in Park City working hard in the Center of Excellence gym and well on her way to recovery and being stronger than ever," the U.S. Ski Team website states. "Talk about fighter. This athlete is the definition of the word. When Smith is healthy and confident enough to put it all on the line, she’s a contender for the podium in every race she starts. Look out for her in 2017, when her Live Free or Die Granite State mentality will be back in the start gate."

Smith has represented the United States at the last two Winter Olympics on the 2010 and 2014 teams. She was 18th in the Super G in Sochi, Russia in 2014, and was 18th in the same event in 2010 in Vancouver, Canada, where she was also 21st in the super combined (combines one run each of slalom and downhill).

The U.S. downhill champion in 2010, Smith landed on the podium in two World Cup races in 2013. She was 13th overall in the downhill at the world championships in Austria in 2013.

Joining Smith on the A Team women's roster are Stacey Cook, 32, of Mammoth Mountain, Calif.; Julia Mancuso, 32, of Squaw Valley, Calif.; Alice McKennis, 26, of Glenwood Springs, Colo.; Laurenne Ross, 28 of Bend, Ore.; Mikaela Shiffrin, 21, of Eagle-Vail, Colo.; Resi Stiegler, 30, of Jackson, Wyo.; and Lindsey Vonn, 31, of Vail, Colo.

Franconia's Bode Miller, 38, was again named to the men's A team along with David Chodounsky, 32, of Crested Butte, Colo.; Travis Ganong, 28, of Squaw Valley, Calif.; Tim Jitloff, 31, of Reno, Nev.; Ted Ligety, 31, of Park City, Utah; Steven Nyman, 34, of Sundance, Utah; and Andrew Weibrecht, 30, of Lake Placid, N.Y.

To be eligible for nomination to the A Team, athletes must have at least one top 25 World Cup placing in either downhill, slalom, GS or Super G.

 

Gracie Ryan places 18th at nationals in triple jump

WAVERLY, Iowa — Sophomore Grace Ryan of the Ithaca College women's track & field team wrapped up the 2016 NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships for the Bombers recently at Wartburg College.

Ithaca finished the championships with 20 team points, which tied the program for eighth overall. It is the second-best placement for the Bombers at the outdoor championships in school history.

Ryan took 18th in the triple jump with a top mark of 11.31 meters (37 feet, 1.25 inches). Her next two jumps measured 11.12 meters and 10.85 meters, but she did not qualify for the championship round.

A journalism major, she is the daughter of George and Madeleine Ryan.

A 2014 graduate of Kennett High School, Ryan earned four varsity letters for both indoor and outdoor track & field. She was a three-time All-State Triple Jump Division II Champion, and a 2014 All-State High Jump Runner-Up. Ryan was also a member of the field hockey and volleyball teams.